UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX LOOMS LARGE FOR F1 COMMUNITY Team, manufacturer executives call Indianapolis inaugural a vital event INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2000-Formula One team owners and automotive corporate executives have heralded the ...
UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX LOOMS LARGE FOR F1 COMMUNITY Team, manufacturer executives call Indianapolis inaugural a vital event
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2000-Formula One team owners and automotive corporate executives have heralded the United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 24 as "enormously important." The race will be the first United States Grand Prix since the race in Phoenix in 1991.
"I think it is way overdue," said Jackie Stewart, former CEO and chairman of Jaguar Racing. "We should have had a Grand Prix of America many years ago, and we should never have left America.
"Most of the names you see on (the Jaguar F1 cars) have either their headquarters or their largest markets in the United States of America. So it is enormously important for Grand Prix racing and the marketing of Grand Prix racing. And it's important for the benefit of the investors in the sport-the sponsors-to have a market place that big."
Stewart, a three-time World Champion, 1966 Indy 500 Rookie of Year and co-founder of the Stewart-Ford/Jaguar F1 team, recently resigned from his post of CEO and chairman of Jaguar Racing. But he will still remain closely involved with the team and the sport. American Neil Ressler is the new chairman of Jaguar Racing.
"We think it is very important to have a United States Grand Prix," said Ressler, also a vice president and the chief technical officer of the Ford Motor Company. "The U.S. is a big market for Jaguar.
"The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a famous venue for motor racing. I have talked to (IMS President) Tony George many times about it. They (IMS) are very serious about putting together a world-class facility. We from North America are very excited to have a second race in North America and especially excited that it is coming to a credible venue in the United States."
For Craig Pollock, chairman of British American Racing, heading to the United States Grand Prix will be just like going home again. Pollock lived Indianapolis when Jacques Villeneuve, whom he managed, raced in CART in 1994 and 1995.
"It is hugely important that F1 is returning to the United States," Pollock said. "F1 without the United States is not a true global sport, and with the United States finally part of the championship we can say honestly that we are global.
"Most of the major corporations and businesses are based in the U.S.A. We need sponsorship, and without offering these major corporations a United States Grand Prix, a lot of them are not interested.
"Indianapolis is a mecca for motor racing. There are very few people in F1 that have actually been at Indianapolis, but they know what it is about and they know about the huge crowds at Indy.
"It is going to be an extremely important event. It will be a great race. I am the happiest man in the world to be going back to Indianapolis because I enjoyed it there."
Dr. Adrian Reynard, CEO of Reynard and technical development director of British American Racing, also lived in Indianapolis.
"It is very important to have a F1 race in the U.S.A," Reynard said. Reynard cars won the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 and 1996 and still dominate in the CART series. But Reynard's knowledge of the classic 2.5-mile oval track will not give him any advantage when it comes to the F1 race on the new 2.606-mile Indianapolis road circuit.
"I lived in Indianapolis for a year," Reynard said. "Somebody asked me if there would be any particular advantages for me, and the only one I could think of is that we know some good restaurants! But operationally I don't think that there is much that we know because the track is brand new."
Pollock believes that F1's popularity will grow in the U.S. now that it once again has a Grand Prix. But he said F1 needs an American driver. "The F1 race at Indy will boost audiences," Pollock said, "but the best thing to boost any form of audience in a country is not by having a race team based out of that country but by having sportsmen capable of winning out of that county. So if you had an American F1 driver that was capable of winning, the audiences would boost automatically."
Stewart sees F1 filling a unique place in the United States. "F1 will never risk as being as well recognized as football, baseball or basketball in America," Stewart said, "but it will be respected as the absolute epitome of motorsport. We can do that by having a good venue that is well run and with the kind of media attention that I think will be there. It is a very positive direction for Grand Prix motor racing to go, and for Jaguar it's exactly the right timing."
The Stewart-Ford team has been renamed Jaguar, and having Jaguar, which is owned by Ford, race in the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis is vital for that company's marketing strategy.
"The United States of America clearly is the single most important market place for Jaguar," said Jaguar's chairman Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle. "F1 becoming more popular in America can be a great benefit to us, and it will be a wind behind our backs that helps us fulfill the future targets we have for America."